Active ageing in the community: examining older people’s everyday physical activity in relation to outdoor access in deprived UK settings

Catharine Ward Thompson, Susana Alves, Affonso Zuin, Catherine Millington

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This presentation is part of the I’DGO (Inclusive Design for Getting Outdoors) research project, focused on older people’s access outdoors and how this contributes to their quality of life. It is recognised that maintaining a good level of physical activity is a key component of healthy ageing (Mazzeo et al, 1998) and that getting outdoors and accessing the local neighbourhood is important for social and mental well-being as well as for physical health (Sugiyama and Ward Thompson, 2007; 2008). The over-arching question addressed by this study is whether recent sustainable urban design and planning policies in relation to residential streets are likely to provide an appropriate environment to support healthy outdoor activity into old age. The paper presents objective and subjective evidence of levels and types of outdoor activity for older people (aged 65+) living in deprived neighbourhoods across different parts of the UK.
The project as a whole involves a longitudinal study to investigate how an environmental intervention in people’s residential street affects levels of activity and patterns of outdoor use. The environmental intervention under scrutiny is proposed modifications to the residential street to create an environment based on pedestrian-friendly, shared space principles such as ‘Home Zones’ (DfT 2005). The overall aim is to examine older people’s perceptions and use of their local outdoor environment, and to record their levels of outdoor physical activity, before and after the implementation of any change in their residential environment.
This paper focuses on baseline data consisting of objective (accelerometer) and subjective (activity diary) measures of physical activity and patterns of outdoor use in locations with conventional residential streets, prior to any environmental intervention. The selection of study sites was based on the criterion that some residential streets in the neighbourhood were planned for Home Zone type environmental modifications in 2009/10. This provided nine sites across England, Wales and Scotland which, with one exception, were all in areas of comparatively high multiple deprivation.
The data collected from 54 residents aged 65+ who used the activity monitors and from 58 participants who filled in the activity diaries are combined to examine: (1) older people’s patterns of physical activities undertaken outdoors (2) the relationship between getting outdoors, type of activity (e.g. walking) and level of physical activity level (i.e. light, moderate, and vigorous); and (3) what kind of environmental features in the street environment are associated with physical activity. The paper concludes by discussing the opportunities and barriers offered by traditional residential streets and neighbourhoods in promoting older people’s physical activity.
DfT (Department for Transport) (2005) Home Zones. Challenging the future of our streets. London: DfT
Mazzeo, R. S., Cavanagh, P., Evans, W.J., Fiatarone, M., Hagberg, J., McAuley, E. and Startzell, J. (1998). ACSM position stand: exercise and physical activity for older adults. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 30, 992 - 1008
Sugiyama, T. & Ward Thompson, C. (2007) Outdoor environments, activity and the well-being of older people: Conceptualising environmental support. Environment and Planning A, 39, 1943-1960.
Sugiyama, T. & Ward Thompson, C. (2008). Associations between characteristics of neighbourhood open space and older people's walking. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 7(1), 41-51.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2010
Event21st IAPS Conference: Vulnerability, Risk and Complexity: Impacts of Global Change on Human Habitats - Leipzig, Germany
Duration: 27 Jun 20102 Jul 2010


Conference21st IAPS Conference: Vulnerability, Risk and Complexity: Impacts of Global Change on Human Habitats


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